Back in 2006, Pixar, riding a six-film winning streak, released a movie titled Cars. It was, to say the least, another hit. With likeable characters, brilliant animation, a solid story and the Disney name behind it, probably “hit” is too weak of a term. Cars was more like a “knock-’em-outta-the-park smash hit.”
Fast forward to 2011, when Pixar, riding an unprecedented eleven-film winning streak, released a movie titled Cars 2. It was not as big of a hit as Cars. While still visually stunning, with likeable characters, it felt forced and scattered, with weak storytelling. Although financially successful, Cars 2 was a sequel that felt very sequel-y. The world could have done without Cars 2.
That kind of sequel-y feeling was the impression I got from Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. It’s still a very fun game, but it feels like a rehash of the same stuff from the first Epic Mickey. Fortunately, I really liked the first game, so this wasn’t a miserable experience.
Epic Mickey was released exclusively for the Wii, but Epic Mickey 2 has gotten some major portage, being released for Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360, and will soon find release on PC/Mac. The following review is based on the Wii port.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two takes place a little bit of time after Epic Mickey‘s end (presumably a few years, according to the comments from people on Mean Street). Repairs on the area are still undergoing after what’s been tagged “The Blot Wars” when an earthquake strikes Wasteland, damaging or destroying much of the work that’s been done to repair Wasteland, as well as some areas that weren’t affected the first time around. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the Mad Doctor is back! But he pleads his case that he’s not really mad anymore, and wants to help the citizens of Wasteland from the returning danger of the Blots in their new weapons, Beetleworx, which are half-blot, half-animatronic.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit buys in to it. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Besides, the Mad Doctor sings all his dialogue now! How bad could he really be?
But Ortencia, Oswald’s main squeeze, doesn’t buy it for a second. So with the help of Gus the Gremlin, Ortencia jimmyrigs the TV that sends its signal directly to the TV of Mickey Mouse in Toontown, creating a portal in between the two worlds. Mickey is teleported back into Yen Sid’s lab, finds his Magic Brush, and heads back to Wasteland to find up what the Mad Doctor is really up to.
There’s a lot to like in this game, and a lot not to like. Epic Mickey 2 wasn’t trying to make any new fans. Gameplay is almost exactly like the first Epic Mickey. Using a remote+nunchuck pairing, Mickey uses his Magic Brush to shoot Paint, which fills in Toons, and Thinner, which erases Toons. You do this by pressing the B-button under the Wii Remote for Paint, and the Z-button in front of the Nunchuck for Thinner. And although you learn this very early in the game, it is inevitable you will hit the wrong substance at least a million times during game play. I can’t tell you how many floors I fell through because I was trying to Paint something and I accidentally fired Thinner instead. Also once you gain a camera, I often found myself lining up to take a picture and winding up in the subscreen… because the camera is the 1-button, and the subscreen is the more-instinctual 2-button. Many frustrated sighs were had.
The most striking difference of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is the inclusion of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as a second playable character giving the game drop-in/drop-out couch co-op play. Oswald has a Remote Control in lieu of a Magic Brush, which can shock Blots or reprogram Blotworx. He can also, in true toon fashion, use his ears as helicopter blades and his leg as a boomerang (get it, a rabbit’s foot? HAHA!). When controlled by a second player, Oswald makes a great addition to the game. Some really difficult areas in the game require both players, either in puzzle solving or simply one character solving challenges while the other keeps enemies at bay.
When controlled by AI, Oswald, like many other sidekicks, turns into a royal pain in the hindquarters. He runs around when you need him, and is right next to you when you don’t. Without a second player, Mickey has to give commands to Oswald, which oftentimes requiring you to be in the exact right spot for Mickey and Oswald to both get “the idea” in the form of thought bubbles which show what Mickey wants Oswald to do. Then, and only then, can the player press the minus-button to issue the command and hope that it works.
Epic Mickey 2 feels like a sequel at best… and a rerun at worst. There are times where you feel you’re just redoing the same things as the first game that you actually wonder if you did the same things in the first game, and they just recycled the map.
The most egregious, fatal flaw, one that cost the game a half-star on its very own, is the evil camera.
“But Ryan, didn’t Warren Spector tell the Associated Press back around March of 2012 that they had had a team working on the camera issues from the release of first game to the ship date of the second game and that the goal was to not have to touch the manual camera even once?”
Yes, gentle reader, he did say that. But hear me when I say this… it has NOT been fixed. Maybe a little bit, but not enough to say it’s been “fixed” or even “worked on.” The camera, once again, is your worst enemy in Epic Mickey 2. It follows a seemingly-random pattern, rendering precision jumps extremely difficult and boss battles almost unethically hard. About the time you pick up a steady clip or pace, the camera spins and zooms to usually the worst position possible, throwing off any sort of aim or speed you may have had. I wasted so much time lining up streams of Paint or Thinner, then inching forward and having the camera spin on me, sending my supplies off into the sky, hitting nothing. To quote Donald Duck, “*&^@$(@!*!^!!!”
OK, I know I’m talking a lot of smack on the game. But it’s not a bad game. It’s very fun. The animation and graphics are incredible, and Disney fans will love all the park and cartoon references, from Mean Street to Rainbow Caverns to OsTown. There are many side quests to keep you entertained well beyond the main campaign. And it is quite a challenge due to being challenging, which is great, as opposed to being challenging due to horrible camera angles and sidekicks that don’t listen, which is irritating.
Overall, much like Cars 2, my expectations were high, and I wasn’t quite as satisfied as I should have been. If you haven’t played Epic Mickey because you have an XBox 360 or PS3, pick up Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and make up your own mind. Some will find it highly entertaining, and some won’t. If you have played the first game, you’ll enjoy the second as well. And if you didn’t enjoy the first game, steer clear of the second, because not much has changed.
Now’s the time to say goodbye
To all our company…
M-I-C (“c” ya real soon!)
K-E-Y (“y”? cuz GotGame likes ya!)